“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
When we read of the people in this passage, it can be easy to sit back and think of them as them. Not me as me. They who are seeking the praise of others. They who are practicing their righteousness before others. Not me. No, not me.
But if I’m honest with myself I realize that I, just like all of fallen humanity, crave something. What is it? Recognition, yes. Praise, yes. Affirmation, yes. But why? Perhaps it stems from this deep question of: Am I okay? Am I okay with God? Am I okay with others? Am I even okay with myself? Do I measure up? Am I doing this life well?
And so I see myself in this passage. I want to be the one who practices prayer and fasting in secret, in humility. I want to be the one giving to the poor out of a pure heart and right motivations. But that’s not always the reality. That deep seated desire in me to be noticed, to be seen, to matter, to do it right – I believe it’s how we are all wired. And our Heavenly Father who sees in secret knows it. He knows how we are made, that we are of dust. And he sees through all of our motivations.
The good news is that He is holding out an invitation to a different kind of Kingdom to each one of us. A way where we are truly okay with Him. We are reconciled to Him with nothing left to prove and all gratitude and service owed to Him. We are made family members with those around us – okay with others. And our soul finds true rest – okay with ourselves.
Today, reflect upon these three relationships: God, others, and self. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify where in your life you are striving to be okay. Give Him your desire to be known and appreciated; ask Him to place in you a desire to seek His Kingdom first and to accept what He has already done to bring peace to all of those relationships.
By Ellen Rosenberger